I’m very lucky that my mother and sister in law are good hostesses, because no matter how hard I try, how many times I watch Olivia run even the smallest of gatherings, I’m not good at it. There are plenty of other things about being Countess I’m very good at.
But hostessing is just not one of them. And tonight is worse because Carolina is willfully ignoring William, who had staring at his drink like it might offer an escape, and then left quickly after dinner. It’s so unlike her.
Tristan standing with his hand on Carolina’s lower back. I looked at Aaron who shook his head at me.
“What is it?” I whispered.
“I’m not sure yet,” he admitted, “but it’s not good.” I sighed. “I had a letter from Harran today. He sent one for you too.”
“I read it,” I smiled. “I’m excited to see him.” He smiled at me. “I was wondering if we’d bring Calla?”
“Bring her where?” Caro settling in next to me. Tristan in a chair nearby. Something was wrong
“To the border,” I explained. “I don’t know if it’s safe.” Caro smiled at me.
“I think she can handle it,” Tristan smiled. “I wrote to Lotte, we ought to get her a pony.”
“She’s three,” I said. He shrugged. “You’ll spoil her.”
“She’s going to be a Countess,” Aaron laughed, “possibly even a queen, I don’t think she can be spoiled.”
“Don’t be silly,” Olivia settled in, “you complained plenty that we spoiled Lisette.” Aaron laughed. “She should learn to ride though, she loves horses so much.”
“We were five on ponies, Thena,” Tristan said. I glared at him.
“Perhaps I want Calla’s childhood to be different from ours,” I said. Carolina looked at me. “That still leaves two years anyway, but you’re right about talking to Lotte and Drea about it.” We talked for a little longer, some about going to The Border and then Tristan’s plans with the queen in Westran after.
“Will Marina be with you?” I said. Tristan shrugged.
“I suppose so,” he said, “I know Nika will be and I can’t imagine they want to separate.”
“They’re separate more often than their together,” Aaron said, “I think it suits them, honestly.” He was looking at Caro.
“I’m sure it does,” she said, meeting his gaze. “They’re both so busy.” Tristan looked at me.
“Of course,” Aaron said. He seemed angry with her, I wish I could figure out why.
“I’m afraid I have to ask you all to leave,” I said abruptly. Olivia stared at me. “My stomach is still often unsettled, with the baby.”
“Of course,” Tristan smiled and kissed me on the cheek and then Olivia. I embraced Caro and we made our way up to bed.
“What is going on with you a Caro?” I asked Aaron as we slid into bed.
“I think something is happen with her and William,” he said. “She was incredibly upset this afternoon leaving the inn, and then he seemed on a another planet.” I laughed.
“Well, yes, he’s in love with her, he has been for years,” I shrugged. He stared at me. “Oh, don’t look at me like that. You must have seen it.”
“I really didn’t,” he muttered. “She isn’t,” he exhaled, “it’s not mutual?”
“I don’t think so,” I said, “but she is often lonely. And I know that she was furious when she found out about Tristan and Marina.”
“What about Tristan and Marina?” Aaron said. I sighed. “I mean beyond the usual, stare at one another intensely and make everyone uncomfortable thing that the two of them do occasionally.”
“Before their wedding, Tristan went to her to comfort her about Lefty and they slept together,” I said. “I think Caro found about maybe a year later? She almost left.”
“And you think she was with William out of revenge?” He frowned. “That doesn’t sound like her.”
“No,” I said softly, “I think that she’s been very unhappy recently, and you know what he can be like. If something happened, I’m sure he’s not making it easy for her to step away.” He frowned. “Love,” I rested my hand on his chest. “What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking that it is bizarre that William and Tristan like the same women, every time, nearly without fail,” he muttered, “with Lisette and Marina I could have chalked it up to their similarities, but Caro too?” I laughed. He kissed me. “Were you really not feeling well?”
“No more than is normal,” I assured him. “I’ve been having trouble keeping richer food down, but that’s why I kept it simple tonight.” He nodded and he kissed me. I exhaled.
“Are you worried about Calla?” He asked. I bit my bottom lip.
“A little,” I admitted. “Lisette hasn’t declared she’s the heir, Aaron, and she’s no nearer children of her own. Which means Calla doesn’t have a place in Dovetail. She belongs here.”
“I know,” he said, “but I always resented my parents leaving me behind, and there’s no reason for us to leave her.” I smiled. “Marina said Council will vote on her being the heir this session.” I nodded. “There’s of course a third option, beyond the guard and being Lisette’s heir.”
“Don’t even tease,” I groaned, “she’s welcome to join the guild when she gets older, but handing her over now would please my grandfather far too much.” He laughed. “I want him to die wondering if Tristan and I will ever come back.”
“That may be the most terrifying thing I’ve ever heard you say,” he laughed and kissed me. I smiled and pulled close. “And that includes every time you offhand talked about cutting off my appendages when we first met.” I giggled. He kissed me.
“I’ve grown rather fond of those appendages,” I whispered. He smirked and rolled on top of me. “Aaron,” I whispered.
“Yes, love,” he said and kissed me, pulling my shift over my head.
“Don’t stop,” I whispered. He nodded, he kissed my neck and I wrapped my legs around him. I arched into him as he pressed into me. We moved with each other, I never got tired of how he felt in me.
We finished and I fell back against the pillows. Aaron curled up behind me and snuggled close, burying his face in my hair.
“Thena,” he whispered, “what are you thinking about?” I smiled.
“I’m barely thinking at all yet,” I said, “but I suppose I’m wondering if when I’m massive with this baby you’ll still want me.”
“I wanted you when you had Calla,” he laughed.
“Mmm,” I sighed, “yes, but maybe you’ve changed in three years.” He kissed me.
“I promise to still want you,” he smiled. I laughed. “Sleep well, Countess.” Every night for four years he’d whispered this in my ear. I would never ever get tired of it.